From the endless line of desserts and the intoxicating smell of French fries to the sizzling sound of burgers, school cafeterias are every child’s dream. Ordering healthy options can be a challenge for young children when they are surrounded by their favorite treats. Teach your child how to order a balanced meal before they go back to school to help ensure your child eats right all year.
Never Miss a Beat!
Subscribe to Our HealthBeat Newsletter!
Get Healthy Tips Sent to Your Phone!
Healthy Go-To Choices
According to the USDA and HHS 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, healthy go-to food items that are good for your child and tasty, too, are:
- A variety of vegetables from all of the subgroups—dark green, red and orange, legumes (beans and peas), starchy, and other
- Fruits, especially whole fruits
- Grains, at least half of which are whole grains
- Low-fat dairy, including milk, yogurt, cheese, and/or fortified soy beverages
- A variety of proteins, including seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes (beans and peas), and nuts, seeds, and soy products
You might also like…
Learning to Balance
Teach your child the simple math of building a balanced meal. That means:
- ½ of the plate should be fresh fruit, salad, or veggies
- ¼ of the plate should be a starch (grains, potatoes, rice or quinoa)
- ¼ of the plate should be lean protein
- Low-fat white milk or low-fat yogurt on the side
Cafeterias have a variety of food choices, so every balanced meal depends on the daily options.
Pack a Lunch
The best way to watch what your child eats is to personally pack school lunches for or with your child. This allows for portion control, monitored meals, and a variety of healthier choices. Pack a sandwich on whole grain bread, baked chips or pretzels, bottled water, small yogurt or white milk, and fresh fruit or vegetable. Personalize your child’s lunch by adding a small note or sticker to help brighten their day.
The cafeteria carries an endless variety of treats. Moderation is key, so teach your child how to pick wisely and order a balanced meal. Limit your child to eating unhealthy choices only once or twice a per week, and teach them to enjoy the healthy options instead.
Updated Sept. 15, 2020
A $21 billion health care provider and insurer, Pittsburgh-based UPMC is inventing new models of patient-centered, cost-effective, accountable care. The largest nongovernmental employer in Pennsylvania, UPMC integrates more than 90,000 employees, 40 hospitals, 700 doctors’ offices and outpatient sites, and a 3.8 million-member Insurance Services Division, the largest medical insurer in western Pennsylvania. In the most recent fiscal year, UPMC contributed $1.4 billion in benefits to its communities, including more care to the region’s most vulnerable citizens than any other health care institution, and paid more than $500 million in federal, state, and local taxes. Working in close collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences, UPMC shares its clinical, managerial, and technological skills worldwide through its innovation and commercialization arm, UPMC Enterprises, and through UPMC International. U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside on its annual Honor Roll of America’s Best Hospitals and ranks UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh on its Honor Roll of America’s Best Children’s Hospitals. For more information, go to UPMC.com.